Wrapping Up Our 2019 Montgomery Trip

“Twenty-Five years ago we didn’t build a single car in the state of Alabama. But now, we are projected to be the second largest automotive producer in the country, within the next five years!” - Jo Bonner

During our annual trip to Montgomery we learned quite a few of the reasons why it’s a great time to think big, be bold, & build a bright future right here in our great state of Alabama!

Chamber Montgomery Trip Governor Ivey

Wrapping up of Day 1 in Montgomery, Alabama:

1. Gas tax update from John Cooper, Director of ALDOT

Mr. Cooper’s briefing started with a warning, acknowledging the fact that the state is aware of those who are not in compliance with their current gas tax expenditures. Moving forward, the Go Build Alabama gas tax allocation will only be spent on road and bridge infrastructure repairs.


At the state level, most of the newly collected gas tax will be spent to relieve congestion & build roads with a narrow focus that addresses the following three categories:

  • Economic Development - The Governor is very concerned about how the gas tax money is distributed, with a goal to make economic improvements as equal as possible; statewide.

  • Relieve Congestion - Statewide transportation issues effect the whole state and there are a few fronts that are being addressed to benefit both rural and metropolitan commute concerns.

  • Rural Projects of Local Interest - In October we will see the procedures to apply for grants made public so communities can begin submitting their project proposals to the state.

It was confirmed that roughly $300M in gas tax will be collected on an annual basis, with $11M being designated to the Mobile Port in order to widen & deepen the canal to contribute to statewide economic improvements. The 4% allocation will continue to move Alabama forward, in the current direction of being one of the top 5 automotive manufacturing states within the next 5 years.

2. Statewide business initiative update by Katie Britt, first female CEO at the Business Council of Alabama

Katie Britt Rick Roden

After serving on Senator Richard Shelby’s Chief of Staff, it is such an honor to have Mrs. Britt over the Business Council of Alabama! Katie explained BCA’s role across the state, which is much like the Chamber, but at a statewide level. She stressed the fact that the BCA is not in competition with local chambers, but in partnership to ensure we are all growing in the right direction.

For example, when “businesses like Google come in they know we are taking care of their best interests. When we show we are willing to invest in their business, then they will be willing to invest in themselves.” That’s the business lifecycle that the BCA team is committed to building momentum from.

Mrs. Britt says, “think of it this way, Mercedes doesn’t currently use our port. We lose out to Charleston because Mobile doesn’t currently have the capacity to accommodate the industry’s need. But, with the changes we are working on is going to be a game changer that will cause a positive economic ripple effect that will be felt throughout the entire state.”

We will then be the 4th largest port in the country and we can feel confident that when that happens we will all benefit.

Moving forward off the following three core principals, residents can expect to see the following innovation occur in the business culture throughout the state of Alabama.

  • Advocacy for a fair & ethical tax structure that allows us ALL to prosper, together.

  • Making workforce development & education a top priority.

  • Being more inclusive to all businesses!

3. State of the State presented by Jo Bonner, Chief of Staff for Governor Kay Ivey

Mr. Bonner began his briefing with an overview of the major accomplishments that have taken place since Governor Ivey took office just two years earlier. He stated, with a heavy emphasis, on the fact that Mrs. Ivey is not concerned with the next election, but with the well-being of the next generation.

  • $12 Billion in New Investment

  • 25,000 New Jobs

  • Lowest Unemployment in History

“This is the best time in history for Alabama’s economy & we are honored it’s on our 200th birthday!”

4. Statewide voting standards from John Merrill, Secretary of State

The briefing Mr. Merrill provided was all about the efficiencies his office has made in both business processes and ease of statewide voting. With the Vote for Alabama app that was launched in May of 2016. “The Vote for Alabama app is built to enable all Alabamians to register to vote and locate their registration information, including polling location and the date of the next election in their area, all at their fingertips.”

Secretary Merrill is committed to ensure that voting is easier to access, but harder to cheat, across the state!

Additionally, he shared with the group how his team has been working to improve business processes which landed him the most inspiring quote of the day award. 🏆 "The state of Alabama no longer operates at the pace of government, we operate at the speed of business!" #BusinessForward

6. Dinner & reception with Alabama leaders at Central

It was such a pleasure to spend an evening reception & dinner with Jackson County Leadership along with statewide and regional leaders, giving us all the opportunity to have meaningful conversations that we don’t typically get the chance to engage in.

Central Chamber Dinner
Senator Steve Livingston

Day #2 Montgomery, Alabama wrap up:

1. The day started with the State of the State address from Governor Kay Ivey.

Then, we traveled over to the State House for briefings with our Senator, Representative, and Regional leaders.

2. Shelia Shepard - President/CEO of Jackson County Economic Development Authority reported combined impact totals of 2017-18. Area industries are responsible for providing 872 new jobs & $2.4M in capital investments.

3. Larry Becker - updated on the Veterans Memorial Park of Jackson County. Piggybacking off the Governor's narrative from earlier in the morning, he shared the high tech educational piece being included to help future generations understand the importance of preserving our way of life. They are still looking for donations if you'd like to help contribute to their November deadline.

4. Dylan Smith - provided an updated list of public policy initiatives we are working with our representatives on. He also thanked Senator Livingston for his leadership in passing Go Build Alabama.

5. Mayor Shelton thanked the Senators for all they do to help Jackson County and mentioned the recent workforce improvement initiative.

6. Tim Guffey - Chairman of Jackson County Commission announced he will have to make some hard decisions due to the County funding issues we are currently facing.

Montgomery Group trip

7. Rick Roden - President/CEO of Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce expressed his hope for the Bellefonte project due to the upcoming court case. "Bellefonte means too much to our community not to fight for it's success!"

8. Dan Harbeke - Head of Public Policy & External Affairs at Google praised our County for the unity and consistency among leadership, reminding us it's something to be proud of!

Thank you to everyone who joined us and supported the trip, it's our pleasure serving our community in this capacity. #JacksonUp

"We are more than capable of handling our most difficult tasks! Alabama's best days are ahead of us!" - Governor Kay Ivey

Both our Washington D.C. fly in and Montgomery drive in trips are annual events that offer locals the chance to join us in a yearly update of how progress among within our state and nation, effects us all. Please feel free to make plans to join us this time next year, we would love to have you!

Sarah Stahl